"A lot of the reviews have been mad!" Neal Brennan told Off the Cuff about his new Sundance show The Approval Matrix, which is based on the popular back page of New York Magazine in which editors track weekly pop culture phenomena on a spectrum of lowbrow/highbrow, despicable/brilliant. According to Brennan, "people expected it to be exactly what it was in the magazine," despite the obvious challenge of repurposing a graphic into a half hour variety show.
Brennan is of course no stranger to television controversy; as the co-creator of The Chappelle Show he was directly impacted by Dave Chappelle's decision in 2005 to walk away from a $50 million deal with Comedy Central and disappear to Africa without telling those closest to him — among them, Brennan himself.
"Still, 'Africa' makes me laugh," he says, insisting that "it's fine" between him and Chappelle now.
Brennan sat down with #pretapodcasts just days after the passing of Robin Williams, which prompted the fellow stand-up to ruminate on the close relationship between comedy and sorrow, which he noticed has lessened recently with a new generation of comics whose material isn't "coming from this strained emotional place as much as it used to be."
"As a comic you can't be ignorant. You have to be hyper-aware and probably of above-average intelligence, and you are also at times trying to outrun your depression," he noted. But that's not to say that he advocates dwelling in darkness to mine laughs.
"I've slowly but surely realized that you're better off being nice and happy."
Listen to Brennan's full interview in this episode of Off the Cuff, and be sure to subscribe to #pretapodcasts on iTunes for all the latest episodes.